When It’s Finally Time to Fall Apart

Portrait of beautiful young woman feeling emotional

My boy hurt himself yesterday. A door flung open in playful exuberance by his older sister with his small foot underneath resulted in a banged-up toe. It wasn’t serious, or wasn’t the scary kind of serious, and anyway, that’s not the point of the story. This isn’t that kind of post.

What I want to tell you is the rest of it. How he came to Nick and I crying. The two of us were sitting at the dinner table, lost in that holy moment between when the kids have finished and left the table and when we have to force ourselves up to begin the long process of cleanup. Luca was crying, but this was nothing new. The four of them together are a constant cacophony of shrieks, as many in pain as in pleasure. When we looked away from each other and towards him it was not without a kernel of annoyance. It’s not often we’re left alone to talk, just husband and wife. This time is sacred. It’s church.

Nick was closer to him, my view blocked partially by the table and the dirty dishes piled high on it, so he saw it first. “Liz?” he said, and instantly I knew too. This one was for real. “Maybe you should look at this?”

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Just like that we were in motion, all five of us swooping into action like a trauma team. I had Luca in my arms before I knew I was up, Nick clearing space for him by the sink so we could wash the wound. The kids scattered to four corners of the house and raced back breathless with their offerings: band aids, blankies, well-worn stuffed lovies, a sippy cup full of warm milk. We were perfect in that moment, everyone assuming their roles, no arguing or hitting or jockeying for position. If only just for a second, all the members of this family were united. We had come together.

It was only hours and one Urgent Care visit later, when the boy was bandaged up and asleep in my bed, that we came undone again, all of them shrieking, each for their own reason: Jack didn’t want to be separated from his video games. Maria didn’t want to be separated from me. Gabby, made especially vulnerable by the hours she has spent in a spiral of self-blame and self-loathing, was reduced to a screaming, kicking pile on the floor when I commited the atrocity of removing…

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